Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.

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The Apartment

Film #360

THE PLOT

A man tries to rise in his company by letting its executives use his apartment for trysts, but complications and a romance of his own ensue.

Year 1, Day 360

BEFORE: Going old-school for a couple of days, we have a Jack Lemmon pairing beginning with the Academy Award winning The Apartment. Lemmon was last seen in Missing and only one of Billy Wilder’s films (Sunset Boulevard) has made it into the marathon. The Apartment is also kicking off one final three-day comedy chain.

AFTER: For most of the film I was left wondering what exactly it was about The Apartment that is entertaining. And it wasn’t until the end when Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) starts asking all these wonderful questions many of them as simple as, “Why?” It’s not that the film isn’t good until the end, it’s just that that’s when I was finally able to describe the reaction I was having for the past two hours. The Apartment is a great exposé on what the films describes as people who are “takers” and those who “get taken”, but the rampant miscommunication (which is vital to the film) can be just a bit too much at times.

I always feel like I defend older films, especially old black-and-white films, instead of just sing their praises and the reason is, that’s how it is most of the time. The way I enjoy many older films is by putting myself in a different mindset so I can appreciate the film for what it was when it was released. But there are a few exceptions (12 Angry Men comes to mind) where I don’t have to do that; the film is just good as-is. The Apartment is one of those films. A big help is that it’s very clear what is going on from an early point. C. C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is a lonely bachelor who’s apartment always has people going in and out, only Baxter isn’t in the apartment at these times - he loans it to fellow executives at his company. There’s also the beautiful Kubelik who draws the eyes of many but refuses all but Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray) - a choice she regrets off and on throughout the film. It’s an engaging story, one that always seems to have something happening yet is very straightforward. That’s a tremendous strength for the film because the premise - all the effects Baxter loaning out his apartment creates - makes the film appealing enough that you can overlook some of the issues I’ll cover next.

And by issues, I really mean issue, and by issue I’m talking about miscommunication. It’s one of the most annoying things ever to watch because the fix is so simple: just say what you want to instead of what you feel forced to. Baxter’s neighbor’s concerns could have been assuaged, Baxter could have more easily refused his coworkers from commandeering his home, and of course the situations that arise at the end could have been corrected within the first half of the film. I’m not saying to get rid of all miscommunication whatsoever. In small doses it can provide entertainment, for both parties, especially if it’s recognized early on and then everyone has a good laugh about it. And for The Apartment, it’s very much an integral part of the film, one which makes many other elements (like the characters and original premise I mentioned above) so great. But it was too much. I don’t care how relevant I thought some quotes were or the laughs to be had when Baxter opens the door saying something completely out of context. The rampant miscommunication didn’t leave me mad, but it certainly left me peeved, miffed, and irked.

Overall though, The Apartment was very entertaining to watch and well deserving of its Academy Award nominations. I think I alluded to this earlier there’s a point I’d like to make clear now. I said the story was straightforward, a better word would be simple. And this applies to a lot of what I was calling “old films”. Many are so simple (compared to what is normal today) that they can be quite a drag unless you choose to look at them differently. What’s so special about The Apartment, and why I’d recommend watching this and other similar films (like 12 Angry Men), is because the simplicity makes the film interesting. It’s amazing to see so much be done with so little and The Apartment is a great example of that.

RATING: 4 out of 5